Tragedy struck at the Evan Williams stable on Friday when Silver Streak, Wales’s best hurdler for years – and former winner of the Welsh Champion Hurdle – was put down after suffering a serious injury on the gallops. He was third in the 2019 Champion Hurdle and won the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton in 2020,
He cost 45,000 euros as a yearling, which began to look expensive when he ran seven times on the flat for Ann Duffield, managing two seconds and a third in seven northern sprints. As a three-year-old he was switched to hurdles in the autumn and ran respectably, fourth, third and second in quick succession. That upturn prompted his sale for £25,000 to Les Fell, a Yorkshire beef farmer who already had a horse with Williams.
Silver Streak’s first run for the Mid Glamorgan handler was at Taunton in December 2016, and connections were more than hopeful. Backed from 3/1 to 2/1, he trotted up off a mark of 96. Next time out he was sent to Musselburgh. Defying a 20 pound rise in the handicap, he won again. A month later he was fourth in a better race at Ascot and put away until Chepstow’s 2017 Jump Season Opener, when he won a competitive handicap easily. In the next few years he won the valuable Swinton Hurdle at Haydock and the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las prior to his Cheltenham Champion Hurdle third. In addition to eight wins he was second or third 14 times, mostly at the highest level, and was still only eight years old. He had earned Mr Fell £450,000 in prize money. Being a grey increased his popularity, but regardless of his colour it was understandable that Williams referred to him as a “one in a million” horse.
A degree of consolation was forthcoming when the stable’s Annsam took Saturday’s Silver Cup at Ascot, worth almost £40,000 to the winner. Brought to peak fitness with two runs over hurdles, Annsam carried the red and yellow colours of Wayne Clifford to a four length victory. If those silks looked familiar, it was because the owner’s Coole Cody won the big race at Cheltenham seven days previously. Adam Wedge was in the saddle on both occasions.
Williams and Wedge have Secret Reprieve, the favourite for the Welsh National on Bank Holiday Monday 27th. He attempts to be the first dual winner since Mountainous won the 2013 and 2015 renewals. He’s only four pounds higher than last year, but Williams is rueing the lack of a prep run, which the dry autumn has precluded. It would be some compensation for the horse’s owners, Mr and Mrs Rucker, whose promising novice hurdler Star Gate died a few weeks ago.
A yard losing two of its best horses within the space of a few weeks, while winning two big Saturday handicaps, illustrates how extreme the ups and downs can be in the world of racing.
Finally, the Uno Mas success story continues. The seven-year-old is trained at Ogmore by Sea by Christian Williams and on Sunday won for the 5th time since September. His latest success came over fences at Fakenham under his regular jockey Ellis Collier.
Uno Mas won a special recognition award at the ROA Welsh Horse Racing Awards in November and by the way he's running he could get another one next year! His total career victories stands at 12. What a legend.